The Pensacola Junior College Women’s basketball team has high hopes coming into the 2009-2010 season. Judging by the way they have been playing pre-conference (5-1), PJC fans have reason to be excited too.
The Lady Pirates beat the fifth-ranked junior college team in the nation, Trinity Valley Community College (Texas), Nov. 13, by a score of 96-93 in overtime. They lost to 14th ranked, Monroe Community College (NY) the next day by two points.
As a result of recent tournament play, the previously unranked Lady Pirates are now No. 2 in the Florida state polls, and sophomore Deana Allen was named Florida Community College Activities Association player of the week.
“I am in love with this team,” Rigby said. “I think it is the best I have ever had.”
Just a season ago, the Lady Pirates had high hopes, as well, and early on it looked as if they would fulfill those hopes.
After winning 11 consecutive games to open the season, the Lady Pirates fell to Santa Fe Community College. But that would not stop PJC.
The Lady Pirates looked every bit the part of a championship contender early in Panhandle Conference play, even defeated 14-time defending conference champion Gulf Coast Community College and ending their 54-game winning streak.
The Pirates cooled off as the season progressed, with injuries and bad bounces, and they finished one game short of a state tournament bid with a 22-8 overall record.
All seven sophomores from the 2008-2009 team received offers to play at the next level, and all will continue their academic and basketball careers on scholarships at a four-year university.
Most consider the Panhandle Conference the toughest conference in the nation. Just two seasons ago, conference foe Gulf Coast won the national championship. Chipola College won the state championship last season and was third in the nation.
Coming into this season, Northwest Florida State College is considered to be the team with the most talent, and in turn, the team to beat in conference play. They were ranked No. 1 in the recent FCCAA state poll.
“They (Northwest Florida State) have the most outright talent,” Rigby said. “They have two of the top five players in the nation.”
The Lady Pirates are led by four sophomores; three that are returners and a transfer from Louisiana Tech University.
Allen, a point and shooting guard, was the leading scorer for the Lady Pirates a year ago, averaging more than 14 points per game.
She is joined by Izzy Chilcott and Jazmond Stringer as the three players returning from last year’s squad. DeAngela Sword is the sophomore transfer.
Allen was not pleased by the way the season ended for the Lady Pirates last year, and promised to not have a repeat.
“This year we will not skip a beat,” Allen said.
According to Rigby, this freshman class is one of the best she has ever recruited.
It is led by dual-sport star Jasmine Scott. Scott is on both the volleyball and basketball team for PJC.
Meghan Perkins (5’11”, G/F), Jessica Merritt (5’6, G), Lori Fletcher (6’0”, G) Natalie Burke (5’9”, G), Najat Quardad (4’11”, G), Olivia Lanus (6’0”, G/F), Ashley Larkin (6’3”, F) and Karneshia Garrett (6’2”, F) rounds out the freshman class for the Lady Pirates.
Keeping up with the Lady Pirates will be as easy as ever.
Panhandle Sports Broadcasting will stream conference games live on the Internet for fans to watch.
Panhandle Sports Broadcasting is led by three PJC alumni; Bill Brownell, Derek Marshman and Joe Paschal.
This will be the third season that Panhandle Sports Broadcasting has video streamed the conference games for the Lady Pirates, as well as the men’s team.
“This is such a high level of competition week in and week out,” Marshman said. “It is also a joy to bring these games back to fans that could not make the trip, as well as parents and family members from across the country.”